Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry season is at its peak right now in New England and the berries are amazing! I am not really a person who has a lot of favorites in life. I like a lot of different things equally and have a hard time picking just one. For example I absolutely love all colors and I really don't prefer one over another. I suppose if I really had to pick I would go with blue, but in general having favorites is not really my thing.  Except for this strawberry shortcake. Oh my goodness, this is the most delicious dessert ever! Fresh, local strawberries are so superior to those giant, flavorless berries you find in the supermarket year round.  The berries are smaller, juicier, sweeter, and just perfect.  

There are so many ways to enjoy these beautiful strawberries, make strawberry ice cream (recipe coming soon), strawberry rhubarb pie or crisp, pavlova, trifle, or in a parfait.  Of course, eating them sunshine warm and ripe, right off the plant isn't a bad way to go either :).  Another great idea is when you make the strawberry mixture for these strawberry shortcakes, double, triple, or quadruple the recipe and separate it into freezer bags to save for the later months of the year when strawberry season has passed.  So like, I mentioned, strawberry shortcake is my favorite dessert, but it has to be just perfect.  I have had many different versions with various types of biscuits, angel food cake, or pound cake, whipped cream, or ice cream and almost all of the time it has been very good, but this particular recipe is the only one that qualifies for favorite status in my book.  The biscuits are tender, sweet, and soak up that red, delicious berry juice beautifully.  The strawberries are perfectly sweet and that tiny hint of balsamic vinegar does something great to enhance the berry flavor.  And of course, the just barely sweet whipped cream brings the whole dessert together and is absolutely amazing.

So now that I have gushed on and on about dessert at 9 a.m. and realllllly wish I had some to eat right now, I am going to change the subject and share a few of my recent flower photographs with you.  I am trying to play with some different editing techniques in my Photoshop Elements software. I am still trying to figure out all the editing tools over a year later, but it is a fun process when I can find the time.  I hope you enjoy these!

Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar 
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold, cubed butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk or heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 quart hulled and quartered strawberries
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
additional sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until small crumbs are formed.  Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla together in a separate bowl or measuring cup and then combine with the dry mixture.  Mix together with a fork or spoon until almost fully combined and then pour out onto a clean work surface.  Use your hands to bring the dough together in a ball and then flatten into a disc, between 3/4" and 1" tall.  Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits and place on a baking sheet.  Reform any scraps into a disc and continue making biscuits until the dough is gone.  I got 6 biscuits from this recipe.  Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with white or turbinado sugar.  Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.  The biscuits can be stored in an air tight container for 2-3 days. 
Combine the clean, hulled, and quartered strawberries (you can slice them if you prefer) in a bowl and toss with 1-2 teaspoons of sugar depending on how sweet your berries are.  The sugar will help macerate the strawberries and create juice/sauce for the shortcakes.  Sprinkle just a touch of balsamic vinegar on the berries too, if you wish.  You won't taste the vinegar at all, but it really enhances the strawberry flavor.  Let the strawberries macerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add about 1 tablespoon of sugar and a dash of vanilla and continue to whip until just barely stiff. Be careful not to go too far, or you will have butter. 
To assemble, cut a biscuit in half and top with strawberries and whipped cream! 

Biscuits Inspired by Joy of Baking

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cookie Dough Brownie Truffles

Chocolate chip cookie dough + brownie + creamy chocolate glaze + mini chocolate chips = AMAZING!  These truffles are ridiculously delicious and have been dubbed "heavenly balls of goodness" by the lucky taste testers. If you are a cookie dough fan, you need to make these asap.  For those of you concerned with food safety, don't worry because the dough is egg-free and completely safe to eat in it's raw state.  These truffles would be great if they were just cookie dough alone dipped in chocolate, but these are kicked up by wrapping the cookie dough in rich, chewy brownie and then the whole ball of delicious-ness is dipped in chocolate.  Yum!

For such an awesome treat, I am less than pleased with how boring these photos came out. I seem to be finding myself following a trend of quickly snapping a few pictures before the food I make is devoured.  Our friends that witnessed the photographing of these truffles probably thought I was a crazy person to be moving the umbrella around to shade a corner of the deck so I could try to get pictures of these in nice natural light.  If I had planned better I would have done this ahead of time, but having a two month old does not lend itself well to that kind of thing. :)  I suppose I shouldn't think of this dilemma as a bad thing because it means the food was a hit and there is usually nothing left over to photograph later, but I do usually wish that I had set aside more time to stage a better quality photo for the blog. 

Once I have put the time and effort into making food, there is usually little time available to set up a nice photo shoot.  I find this especially common when I make new meals for dinner that I want to share on the blog.  I hardly ever take the time to snap any pictures at all because we are hungry and excited to get eating!  This is definitely something I need to plan accordingly for because I am hoping to get back into a more regular posting schedule again.  I kind of ended up on a tangent here, but what I meant to say was, the pictures do not do these babies justice!  You seriously need to try these truffles. To borrow my husband's description, as I think it fits them best: "these are intense!"

Cookie Dough Brownie Truffles

3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups mini-chocolate chips, divided
9x13 pan of prepared brownies (box mix or homemade)
16 oz chocolate or chocolate bark, melted

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the milk, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined.  Stir in the flour until a stiff dough forms that can be rolled into balls. You might need slightly more or less flour.  Add 1 cup of the chocolate chips and mix well.  Form 1" balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place the dough balls in the freezer for about 30 minutes until very firm.  Cut the crusty edges off of your prepared, cooled brownies (mmm snack time!) and cut the rest into 1" to 1 1/2" squares.  Press the brownies into flat discs and wrap around the cookie dough balls.  You can pretty easily smoosh the brownie around the cookie dough to cover it evenly.  Place these back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.  If you are using regular chocolate, you should temper it so that it will set on the truffles.  There is lots of information online that can teach you how to temper.  If you are using chocolate bark (sometimes called fake chocolate, almond bark, or candy melts) you can just melt that as is.  Dip each truffle in the melted chocolate and use a fork to help you shake off the excess chocolate.  Place the truffle back on the baking sheet and top with mini chocolate chips.  The truffles should set up at room temperature, but I chilled mine because it was a hot day and I thought they would taste better cool.  If you have any left over (haha!) store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.   


Inspired by The Domestic Rebel

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Raspberry & Lemon Cream Tart

This is the most delicious light and citrus-y spring/summer time dessert.  Lemon and raspberries are one of those perfect food combinations that were meant to be, like peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and french fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, or american cheese on Cape Cod potato chips.  What's that? You don't put cheese on your chips? Huh, well you are missing out! Anyways, lemon and raspberries both have a tart quality about them, but sweetness in the raspberries balances the tangy-ness of the lemon beautifully.  

I made this lovely tart for our family mother's day dinner and it was just the perfect dessert for the occasion.  The tart shell was tender and buttery and the lemon cream filling was so light and delicious.  The powdered sugar dusted raspberries added exactly the right touch of sweetness that this dessert needed.

As you can see, we didn't waste any time devouring this dessert.  I had to pause eating my slice to snap a side view shot before the rest was scooped up by the lucky few who got seconds. :)  This would be a great dessert for a brunch or even a fancy dinner party too.  You could even make this in mini tart pans or a muffin tin if you wanted to do individual servings. I hope you give this one a try!

By the way, speaking of mother's day, look how big little K is getting!! Almost 11 weeks old already!

Raspberry & Lemon Cream Tart

Pastry Crust
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, diced butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup ice cold water
Zest of 1 lemon

Place the butter, flour, sugar, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse until the butter is incorporated into the flour and looks like small pebbles.  Slowly add the ice water with the food processor running, until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides.  You may not need the full amount of water.  Carefully remove the dough from the food processor, form into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.  (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter and wooden spoon to make the dough by hand.) This recipe makes enough for two tart crusts, so pop one in the freezer for another recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll  the other disc out to about 1/4" thick and transfer to a tart pan.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork (don't go all the way through), place a piece of foil on the dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  This will keep the crust from puffing  up while baking.  Bake for 30 minutes then remove the weights and bake 5-10 more minutes until the crust is lightly golden brown. Let the tart shell cool completely.

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup  freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
pinch of salt, if using unsalted butter

In a medium sauce pot, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and egg yolks.  Turn the heat on to medium-low and add the butter.  Whisk constantly until the butter is melted.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens to a jelly-like consistency.  Strain the lemon curd into a bowl, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool. 

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Whip cream to soft peaks and add the sugar and vanilla.  Continue to whip until well combined and slightly stiffer.

2 pints raspberries
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Remove tart shell from the pan and place on a plate or cake stand, if desired.  Spread 1/3 of the lemon curd on the tart shell.  Fold the remaining lemon curd into the whipped cream.  Fill the tart with the lemon cream and top with raspberries.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.  


Inspired by Inside a British Mum's Kitchen
Inspired by David Lebovitz (lemon curd)